Book reviews by Nathan Rosen May/June 2013


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Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, Vol. 3, No. 2, May/June 2013, pages 24, 27 & 28. Book reviews of The Book of Job by Donald Kraus, The Book of Job by Harold Kushner, & When my mother no longer knew my name by Stephen Goldstein.

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Book reviews by Nathan Rosen May/June 2013

  1. 1. AJL Reviews May/June 201327Kanarfogel, Ephraim. The intellectual history and rabbinic culture of medieval Ashkenaz. Detroit: Wayne StateUniversity Press, c2013. xvii, 565 pp. $59.95. (9780814330241). Also available as an ebook.This is a solid and exhaustive presentation of the “salient differences in talmudic and halakhic studiesbetween the Tosafist centers of northern France and Germany” (chapter 1), especially their Biblical commentaries(chapters 3-4), liturgical poetry (chapter 5), and mysticism (chapter 6). Unlike Spanish medieval thinkers, theTosafists were involved in a number of varied disciplines beside Talmud and Halakah which, according toKanarfogel, have received “scant attention in modern scholarship.” The author used manuscript and publishedsources but there is only an index of the manuscripts cited and no bibliography at the end of the volume.The index of Biblical citations exists, but it is in the subject index, under the name of each author of a biblicalcommentary. A separate index of the Biblical sources cited would have been a nice addition.  This book is not anintroduction for the uninitiated but rather a comprehensive exposition in English of the last four or five decadesof research in the field, with many extensive footnotes of bibliography or reviews of the current scholarship. Foracademic libraries serving comprehensive graduate programs in Jewish Studies.Roger S. Kohn, Silver Spring, MD.Kraus, Donald, translation and annotation. The Book of Job: Annotated & Explained. Woodstock, VT: JewishLights Publishing; SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2012. 216pp. $16.99. (9781594733895).The Book of Job is my favorite biblical book because of its difficulties and controversial nature. A multitude oftranslationsandagreatmanycommentarieshavebeenpublishedonthisbook. Inthissmallpaperbackedition,Krausattempts to provide a new translation of The Book of Job by using regular words said by real people. He intends thework to be as intelligible as possible, and he succeeds overall but leaves the reader fundamentally dissatisfied.The author, who is not a scholar of languages (although Executive Editor for Bibles at Oxford UniversityPress), recognizes that the text of Job is difficult for a number of reasons, including defects in transmission andconstruction. His translation is aimed at the general reader and so he has written it as clearly as possible withReviews of Nonfiction Titles for AdultsTalmud isn’t just black & whiteAvailable online at and at bookstores everywhere. * Offer expires May 31, 2013Side-by-side English-Aramaic translationColor maps & photos of artifactsHistorical, scientific & archeological backgroundExplanations of terminology & grammar20%DISCOUNTON SUBSCRIPTIONS*USE PROMO CODE:AJL2013KOREN PUBLISHERS JERUSALEM66 Perek I . 10b .Hezekiah intended to evokerelatingtoawall,andGod:wallontherooffortheProphetElisha,andall the more so should you bring life to the descendant offather’sfather,KingSolomon,whocoveredtheentireTemplewhathe said:Various-at sunrise instead of sleeping late, as was the customofmostkings(Iyyun Ya’akovupon which everyone relied.NinnovativeWith regard to three the Sages agreed with him, andWith regard to three actions the SagesHe ground the copper snake through which miracles wereit had been used in idol worship (evil father, King Ahaz,of ropesfor a king ( ChroniclesYet, with regard to three other innovations, the Sages of hisgenerationthePoolofSilaom,B diverting its water into the city by means of a tunnel ( Chron(He intercalated Nisan in Nisan, creating a leap year by addingmust be performed before the end of Adar ( ChroniclesWith regard to his intercalation of Nisan, the Gemara asks:accept the halakha:thisisNisan,andnoothermonthHowcouldHezekiahaddan additional Nisan in violation of Torah law?Hezekiaherredwithregardtothehalakhicopinionascribedinlater generations to Shmuel, asas the New Moon ofOn the thirtieth dayofeachmonth,thosewhowitnessedthenewmoonwouldcomeand testify before the court, which, based on their testimony,one may not declare a leap year on the thirtieth day of Adar, asto intercalate the year on the thirtieth of Adar. Hezekiah heldthatSince that dayas theNewMoonisreasonenoughtorefrainfromintercalationoftheyear.He suppressed the Book of Remedies –:-NOTESThe waters of the Gihon – : --Hezekiah’s tunnelBACKGROUNDbrakhot r01.indb 6609/01/2012 12:32:07www.korenpub.comThree book reviews by Nathan RosenAssociation of Jewish Libraries ReviewsVol. 3, No. 2, May/June 2013Pages 24, 27 & 28
  2. 2. AJL Reviews May/June 201328much paraphrasing. Less than 100 pages of this small book comprise the actual translation; the rest is Kraus’sintroductory discussion and some textual notes. The author presents some of the puzzles regarding the dialogueand the form of the book; he discusses many questions but most are left unanswered, leaving us wanting more.Currently there is a substantial academic and religious body of literature discussing The Book of Job, but the authorfails to share much of the available collective knowledge with the reader. While I enjoyed the translation, Krausleaves me unsatisfied and disappointed, wishing for deeper probing and more analysis. For most libraries andreaders, Krauss new translation will not really add any depth or breadth to their knowledge of the Book of Job.Nathan Aaron Rosen, New York, NYKushner, Harold S. The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person. New York: Nextbook/Schocken, 02012. 202 pp. $24.00. (9780805242928). Also available as an ebook.This book is a tremendous accomplishment. If you want to read one recent book about the Book of Job – thisis the one. Harold Kushner smoothly condenses an extensive body of Job scholarship into an accessible book.Kushner progresses through the Book of Job translating the text, focusing on historically problematiclanguage, bringing forth key historical commentators, providing insight, and discussing the meaning of thethree friends’ speeches. He summarizes many of the most popular commentaries, such as those by Maimonides,Spinoza, Isaac Luria, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Archibald MacLeish (author of the play J.B.).Kushner also contributes his own unique insights, which are the culmination of tragic personal loss and decadesof counseling congregants and others through suffering and loss.With this work Kushner completes the circle that he started nearly fifty years ago with his desire as a young manto write his Ph.D. dissertation on Job at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Professor Harold Ginsberg convincedhim that he had not yet lived sufficiently to write about Job. Five decades later, he is ready: having experienced thetragic death of his young son (which he describes as the single defining moment of his life), written his best-sellingbook, When Bad Things Happened to Good People, and counseled hundreds of people who suffered death or tragedy.Harold Kushner is the Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in a Boston suburb and earned his Ph.D. in biblicalliterature from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has published other works helping people endure difficulttimes, including a wonderful translation and analysis of the 23rdPsalm, The Lord is My Shepherd.I recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with suffering or loss and to counselors, especiallyRabbis, Psychologists and Social Workers. It is strongly recommended for every synagogue library.Nathan Aaron Rosen, New York, NYLawler, Justus George. Were the Popes Against the Jews? Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues.Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. xviii. 387 pp. (9780802866295).Author, editor and translator Justus George Lawler has written on a wide range of subjects, including Englishliterature, Popes and Politics, Animal Rights and more.In this book he has taken on the cause of the popes who have been accused by various authors as anti-Semites, particularly Pius the XI and XII. His sharpest criticism is directed against David I. Kertzer’s The PopesAgainst the Jews and John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope.He dissects Kertzer’s statements and accuses him of using unethical and unscholarly methods, such asquoting out of context and engaging in mind-reading when he is unable to base his conclusions on facts. Lawler’sreasoning might be more readily accepted, were it not cast in arrogant, sarcastic and abstruse language. Lawler’stone is so consistently offensive and contemptuous that it makes the reader reluctant to accept his arguments,even when they appear well reasoned. For example, in reference to Kertzer, we read: “Once again the omniscient,clairvoyant takes over” (p. 68-69), and on pp. 209 his arrogance is unmistakable: “Perhaps a little real history willclarify matters.” At times he indulges in some of the same speculation of which he accuses his adversaries; thus,on p. 238, he conjectures: “If the pope had spoken up, it would not have had any effect on Hitler’s anti-Semiticpolicy.”The last chapter of his book considers how well the Catholic Church, the United States of America and theJewish people have kept faith with their core values despite their occasional deviations from them, This wouldbe an interesting academic exercise and historical analysis, were it not for the false premise by which Lawlerequates Judaism and the Jewish people with the State of Israel, thus holding all Jews, whether living in IsraelReviews of Nonfiction Titles for Adults
  3. 3. AJL Reviews May/June 201324seven and eight analyze the differing views of Maimonides and Nachmanides. Part 3 examines Zionist thought.Firestone starts in the 19thcentury, discussing how war was seen by several of the movement’s progenitors andearly leaders, and their differing perspectives on the Holy Land. He then moves to Rav Kook’s views; the inter-war issues surrounding self-defense (the Haganah); the resistance movements of the 1930s, and the post-Shoahperiod (1945-48). Part 4 reviews the wars of the State of Israel, including the War for Independence, the 1956Suez conflict, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the development of new views in the 1970s and 80s.Holy War in Judaism is a fascinating examination of an important and complex topic. Those interested inthe development of the question will find this book extremely worthwhile. While not an easy read, it is clearlywritten. The footnotes are extensive, as is the bibliography. It is highly recommended for academic collections,but may not be a first-choice title for smaller libraries.Fred Isaac, Temple Sinai, Oakland, CAFranklin, Arnold E.  This Noble House: Jewish Descendants of King David in the Medieval Islamic East.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2013. 297 pp. (9780812244090)DozensofinfluentialJewsintheMiddleAgeswereidentifiedbythetitleNasi.ThetitleevokedthePatriarchsofRoman times and the Exilarchs of Babylonia, but while some medieval bearers of the title were the acknowledgedleaders of their communities, for others it was no more than an honorific. Focusing on the Jewish communitiesof medieval Egypt and the area whose documents are found in the Cairo Genizah, Franklin demonstrates thatthe growing interest in this title, and in its genealogical implication of descent from the line of King David, wasan outgrowth of their Islamicized culture. Alongside texts from rabbinic responsa and medieval travelogues,Franklin analyzes many letters in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic from the Genizah, emphasizing and elucidatingtheir use of family lineage claims. Photographs of several of these Genizah letters are included in the book, andan appendix lists more than one hundred medieval Jews who claimed descent from King David. This Noble Houseis a fascinating study in the burgeoning field of Genizah studies, and provides a new perspective on medievalJewish culture in the Islamic world.Dr. Pinchas Roth, Tikvah Scholar, NYU Tikvah Center.Goldstein, Stephen L. When My Mother No Longer Knew My Name: A sons “course” in “rational” caregiving.Ashland, OR: Grid Press, 2012. 172 pp. $21.95. (9781555717018).Stephen Goldstein, author, journalist, Ph.D. from Columbia University, and radio/TV talk show host tacklesan extraordinarily difficult situation and provides us with much to think about. He sets out a very personal andparticular story of taking care of his mother which is both heart-wrenching and familiar to anyone who has hadthe opportunity to care for a loved one.The author uses his own very unique situation as a springboard to raise the wide variety of issues whichanyone taking care of an elderly parent has to consider and plan for. He offers much invaluable advice on howto prepare yourself emotionally and practically when thinking out the choices and dealing with the multitude ofhard decisions which have to be made. The book includes a pre-assessment and a post-assessment test of yourcaregiver readiness. A careful reading of the book will certainly improve one’s caregiver readiness score.Goldstein provides some extraordinary practical techniques that can make a real difference in dealing withtricky and emotionally laden situations. Some of the author’s observations seem obvious, while others arecontroversial. Overall, Goldsteins book is a positive contribution to the subject.When My Mother No Longer Knew My Name is recommended for anyone dealing with or considering dealingwith elderly parents. Do not delay nor wait until the situation is thrust upon you. This book can made a realdifference to you, how you make this important decision, and how you cope with an aging parent. Given thedemographics of America and especially the Jewish population, social service organizations, synagogues, andlibraries should add Goldsteins book to their collection.Nathan Aaron Rosen, New York, NYReviews of Nonfiction Titles for Adults
  4. 4. May/June 2013 Volume III, No. 2Association of Jewish LibrariesREVIEWSAJL OnlineVisit the AJL Web site at subscribe to Hasafran, AJL’s electronic discussion list, please visit is now on Facebook. Become a fan.Jablonski, Carla. Victory: Resistance Book 3. Illus. by Leland Pervis. New York: Roaring Book Press,2012. 125 pp. $17.99. (9781596432932) Pbk. Gr 6 and up.Fans of the Resistance books will not be disappointed in the final episode of thetrilogy. The three siblings in the Tessier family are active in the resistance movement.Older sister, Sylvie, dates a German soldier so she can gather information, while youngPaul becomes a courier. Marie takes on an unexpected role of caring for a resistance pilotwhose plane has crashed. Intertwining stories take the reader on an exciting adventureand underscore the anxiety of not knowing whom to trust in perilous situations. Througha series of events, Paul is eventually reunited with his friend, Henri. As with all goodyoung adult literature, the inspiring, energized characters face their challenges and growas individuals in the process. The end of the war brings a satisfying conclusion to theirstory. The author does an excellent job of telling a compelling story while including backmatter that will encourage further thought and discussion about the impact of the waron individuals and communities. The setting and characters are well represented in theevocative graphic illustrations. The deep hues shift tone in varying settings, giving the reader a true sense oftime and place. Historical fiction in a graphic novel format makes history accessible to readers of all levels.For teachers and librarians in need of books with male characters, Victory should be a top choice. Ideally,libraries will offer all three books in the trilogy. Highly recommended for Jewish and community libraries.Barbara Bietz, Past Chair, Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Oak Park, CAContentsTitles for Children & Teens p. 1 Spotlight p. 1 Biography p. 3 Board Books p. 4 Cookery p. 4 Fiction - Middle Grades p. 4 Fiction - Teen p. 5 Folktales p. 6 God & Prayer p. 6 History p. 9 Holocaust and WWII p. 10 Israel p. 11 Jewish Life & Values p. 13 Music p. 13 Shabbat and Holidays p. 13Reviews of Nonfiction Titles for Adults p. 16Reviews of Literature Titles for Adults p. 39Credits and Contact p. 42In The Spotlight